Who is Self Help Sunday?


I’m a mid-fifties northern Californian who retired in November 2015. I’ve always liked to write, but haven’t really written much creatively since 6th grade. Sixth grade was when I wrote a story in my AP English class and it garnered a bit of praise from the teacher. Writing that story was almost an out-of-body experience. I woke up with ideas and the writing process flowed.

I read that story recently, and I cringed just a bit. Well, I was only in 6th grade.

Writing has been part of my work life but has mainly been in the form of varying types of government communication: legislative and policy analysis, programmatic and fiscal guidance, and grants. I’m looking forward to just writing what I want and being myself – whoever that is.

Because I’m not always sure. I’m very fortunate to have retired at a young age and it sure beats working. However, it is a transition. I’m still in the process of figuring all of it out.

So this is one of the things I’ve wanted to do: start a blog. So here it is. #blogging101 #retirement #writing

Catching up

It’s been so long since I’ve written or posted, I almost get overwhelmed. Recapping the past few months seems like a chore. Honestly, not a lot has happened; I just got out of the habit of writing here. It was easier for me on Sparkpeople! Also, I got a new computer, which meant new software and it has not been smooth sailing. I have been having trouble uploading pics to WordPress (grr) so it’s just going to words for now.

I did do a bit of travel. I finally went to visit the Vancouver Aquarium with my friend and got to see my sea otters! I’ve been wanting to do this since I fell in love with the baby otter Joey in 2020. Several trips were scheduled and cancelled due to COVID. Finally, my friend initiated the visit, and I went!

We both were vaxxed and boosted and tested before we saw each other. It was quite the experience trying to test at the airport! We stayed at her friend’s place in Vancouver, an added bonus, for not having to be in a hotel and her friend’s house was AMAZING. I got to stay in a guest room that had a view of the water. The whole house has one side dedicated to water views.

At the aquarium, I got to meet a few of the trainers who took us “behind the scenes” at the otter enclosure. They let me toss ice treats to the otters and then we met a stellar sea lion….and I fed him a few fish! It was a very exciting trip for me and was also a treat to spend time with my friend.

A month prior, a big group of us went to Moss Landing (near Monterey) to kayak in Elkhorn Slough. This part of the state is one of my favorites; especially when we stay in Pajaro Dunes. It’s very peaceful and not crowded and of course….. there are otters! It was a fun filled weekend kayaking in the ocean, although the whale watch that we had scheduled was canceled due to weather.

More recently, cousins from Kansas came out to visit. I hadn’t seen them since my mom’s funeral and my cousin’s wife and kids had never been to California. They wanted to see lots of things which made for a very packed few days. I felt a bit bad for my sister, they stayed with her as she has the most room. None of us are very comfortable having house guests…..I was a bit leery of getting too close since NONE of them are vaccinated, so got my 2nd booster the week before they came.

My days have a similar routine. I get up when I wake up, feed the cats (indoor and outdoor feral), and have coffee. I like a slow start to the day after so many years getting up super early to work out before going to work. Now, I go after my coffee and during the summer, before it gets too hot! We had a nice string of cooler days in May but it’s been over 100 degrees for the past week. We put up some sunshade curtains in our den/kitchen area, as that part gets afternoon sun. My art classes are done until September, though I’ve tried to do a bit of watercolor and drawing here and there. We tend to eat early, watch some Netflix, then head to bed. I usually read for a while, then sleep! On the weekends, there are usually things to do with my active friends. Last weekend, we went kayaking one day and cycling another.

Well, I will call this a minor success if I can just post. Now, I need to figure out the pictures…thanks for reading.

Photo by Yajun Dong on Pexels.com

(not my pictures but sea otters!)

Anniversaries. Part 1.

I’m just now realizing that it is 6 years since I retired. It was November 6, 2015 which I had to look up because for some reason I thought it was November 9. I think it actually WAS the 9th, but my last day of work was Friday the 6th.

I used to think I had a good memory but this is the sort of thing that happens more so I don’t trust that I remember dates and days.

Reflecting on the past 6 years, it has gone fast and yet seems like not long ago that I was working. I’ve had a few friends retire recently, and it’s always interesting to see how people adjust and adapt. A few have gone back to work. One friend has been a main hiking and cycling buddy so I miss our frequent get togethers. She was wooed back to work while shopping at a quilting store, which is big love of hers. She is learning new things, gets to try new machines and material and says it doesn’t feel like work. You should see her beautiful race t-shirt quilts! Yikes. They are amazing.

For me, I don’t miss working per se, but I have missed some of the people. Sometimes, I miss some of the intellectual stimulation and contact with others but not enough to go back to work. I was in touch with a few after I retired but it was mainly me initiating something and I found I was not interested much in hearing about work and that’s what got discussed. I understand that. Work was a significant part of my life while I was doing it. Of course, COVID changed everything so I don’t even connect with the one or two people I was in touch with before.

I have some negative feelings about my retirement celebration. I didn’t want to BE ANY TROUBLE – and was feeling a lot of anxiety and mixed emotions as the final day approached. So, I said, let’s just do cake on Friday afternoon. One thing that WAS important to me: to have people whom I had worked with from past agencies to be there. I contacted a few, but was wrestled into “letting go” and gave the list of names to the person organizing the event. I thought it was kind of funny, that I didn’t hear from them before the event – to say they weren’t coming, or to just be in touch. So I was pretty disappointed and a bit hurt when I found that only 2 from my past work life showed up. Later, I heard that they had not even been invited! So the person organizing the event obviously didn’t follow through beyond invites within the agency. I’ve told myself it’s not a big deal. And in the big scheme, it’s not. But, retiring IS a big deal in one’s life and now, after some time and reflection, I’m okay with being disappointed in something that was not done very well. Especially since I had requested so little.   

The other anniversary is my cancer diagnosis – but will write about that next. I have procrastinated enough, so will (hopefully) post this and be back soon. Thank you for reading.

A few hassles

Photo by Yan Krukov on Pexels.com

I just changed the format for the blog – I saw it elsewhere and liked it better! But uh-oh, there is more to learn about THIS one. The first post that is now appearing is my first EVER post, again, instead of the most recent one. This happened when I first went back to posting here.

My fingers are clicking as I type because I didn’t cut my nails and actually painted them a few days ago. This is the first time I’ve done this since the pandemic. Not that I did it a lot before, but I like to wear jewelry and think rings look better with clean up hands. Most of the time, I just cut my nails off and was more aware of this in the past 2 years because I really wanted to make sure my hands were well scrubbed. I’m also pretty hard on my hands, so wearing nail polish doesn’t usually last long. And sure enough, it started peeling almost immediately and now it bugs me. So I suspect the nails will be unpainted and short again very soon. (Written last week; the nails are gone now. Back to short).

Last week I did something very out of character for me. I bought a new phone and didn’t wait for the deals or the sales or whatever. And I don’t have it yet, I just ordered it. I have an iphone 7 and it has run out of memory and has been stalling when I text so I figure it’s going to be time soon. I did make a faint attempt to get a phone through Costco but it turned out to be kind of a hassle. And these days, I just can’t do hassle.

A recent hassle example is this. My sister in law offered us two “free” meals from Hello Fresh (one of the many mail order companies. To claim the offer, I had to create an account and give a credit card to pay for the shipping ($8.99). Which is why it wasn’t really free. The website was kind of clunky and I found it hard to figure out if I 1) had actually ordered the meals; and 2) had ordered something veggie rather than what was on the menu that week. I guess they automatically send you something if you don’t change your order. And I found out that they also automatically send you the next week’s meal unless you cancel. This, I found out the hard way, getting a message that the next two meals were arriving the NEXT day, neither of them being anything we eat. GRR. So I cancelled (not easy) and hoped I did so in time to prevent the meals from arriving. Nope. My neighbor was the lucky recipient of the parmesan chicken bake and the shepherd’s pie.

Another hassle: canceling newspaper and magazine subscriptions. There was a time when I read the latter (magazines). I really don’t anymore and if I do, I read it online, through the library. Really, the only good thing about a hard copy is reading it in the bath tub, which I don’t do much either because I try to take quick Navy showers rather than a bath. Drought awareness, right here. So somehow I ended up subscribed to People magazine (I didn’t do it and neither sister did) and it hasn’t appeared on my credit card statement. I have been subscribing to Entertainment weekly but again, not reading. So I did manage to cancel both of those —- but here’s the hassle. I am still getting the magazines. Yikes.

I also wanted to cancel the newspaper. I really really want to support local journalism. But the local paper is TERRIBLE. And expensive. And hard to get rid of once you start. So I called (no online way to cancel) and was talked into one more year at a seriously reduced rate. At least they didn’t get my credit card. Because they’ve gotten me that way before.

First world problems, I know. I’m trying to reduce my personal paper waste and try to keep the clutter from overwhelming me more than it already does.

On to Halloween. It was fine; I decided to hand out candy and there were about 30 -40 kids total, most coming between 7:00 and 8:15. And mainly in larger groups. I was fine with that. The last two kids that came were a bit older, and commented that “no one is out.” I told them it was pretty busy an hour earlier! We turned out the lights at 8:30 and went to bed soon after.

As ONEKIDSMOM said, on to another month. I learned from her today what a no bones day is! Thank you Barb! Stay safe and thanks for reading.

MAYBE some fall weather

I’ve been in a bit of a moderate mood – not bad, not good, a few ups and downs as usual. I impulsively signed up for a trail run in early December, the same one as the last “real” one I did before COVID hit and things shut down. Not sure if anyone will join me – I shared with a few friends who shared the adventure with me in 2019 but they aren’t ready to commit.

So the impact that had, just signing up for that run, was that it motivated me to get back on the trails today. Not much, a 3 miler near my house, but enough to be different. When I returned, I did my strength training exercises, which wear me out but are essential.

Overall, things are okay. I am THRILLED to have colder weather – which for us, is 67 degrees now at 5 p.m. but overnight it has been in the ’40s. It also has been quite windy, and a reminder of the bad fires that hit Santa Rosa in 2018. Before this year, fire season was more or less limited to September and October but now it’s pretty much all year. I’m praying for rain and snow, like most people here in CA. There was a bit of a sprinkling of the white stuff on the mountains last weekend, but doubt it will stay. For once, we proactively washed out the gutters before RAIN (please) hits and all of the gunk clogs up the downspout.

Art classes are continuing, and have been fun, but feel a bit rushed. My instructor had to cut back on her teaching because she was juggling some financial changes, so the sessions went from 6 weeks to 5, and from 2.5 hours to 2. I’m taking watercolor and drawing, and at least once in each class, I have messed up what we are doing. It is just practice, I know.

My brother in law ran the Boston Marathon again, his fourth time. My sister joined him there this week, and they are headed to New Hampshire to visit our aunt. They have done some interesting things this year. They went to Yellowstone in September and are planning a trip to Pittsburgh so my BIL can run that marathon. He is from Pittsburgh, so they will combine that trip with visiting his brother.

I have simultaneously wanting to travel and reluctant to deal with the hassles. We are planning a short trip to the North Bay Area soon, so shorter distances in the car seem to be best for me right now. My husband keeps mentioning driving to San Diego for Christmas but the thought fills me with dread. It is a long trip, and in recent experience, I end up doing most of the driving so it doesn’t thrill me.

Well, this blog is long overdue. I have started and added and saved drafts several times, so time to hit publish. Thanks for reading.

Subtly ignoring the passage of time

Note: I drafted this about a week ago and promptly forgot to post! So here it is anyway!

It is September, but it was only yesterday late that I changed my tablecloth. That’s a regular monthly routine with me but somehow, I didn’t get around to it. And, the calendar in this room is still on August.

Now that I think back, it’s because last week turned out to be busier than expected. We had planned to have my stepson and girlfriend visit us, but given how bad the fires and air quality have been, decided it would be better for us to drive and meet them in the Bay Area. So we did that. It was kind of tiring as there is so much traffic. And it’s stressful, people drive fast and then there is a lot of stop and go. I was sure we would be rear ended several times. So between that trip, and needing a day or so to recover, last week seems to have just slipped by.

I did meet friends for a walk on Tuesday, the 3 women who did the cancer strength training class with me. We are trying to meet on Tuesdays for a brief walk. And I managed to get out Friday morning for an early bike ride of 14 miles. The reward is coffee afterwards, done in a leisurely fashion, as most of us don’t work anymore. It’s less stressful for those who do, as everyone is still working from home so there is less of an issue about getting showered and into work clothes.

Yesterday, a big group of us met to kayak on nearby Lake Natoma. The air was a bit iffy but we were out early and shut things down around noon. It was very nice to be with folks again, and love that the convener has included that the events require attendees to vaccinate.

Speaking of which, I received a notice to schedule a booster shot! Which I promptly did, for Friday. I did not have any reaction, other than being slightly tired, although it could have been from the quick trip to the Bay Area a day earlier! My poor hubby. He so wanted to get a booster now. They are still figuring out who will be eligible next. I think my cancer diagnosis triggered it.

It’s still really hot here but the AQI is a bit better. Staying indoors, paying bills, maybe doing some reading. Hope your weekend has been good and that a good week lies ahead. Thanks for reading.

At least, a shower.

This could be under the heading of small gratitudes. Of which I’m struggling with lately.

The fires have been catastrophic. By the time this is published, the Caldor Fire may have reached South Lake Tahoe. It has already swept through many places that I love to visit and hike, where several friends live. A whole town (Grizzly Flats) was destroyed. I can’t really add to the conversation other than I’m feeling fairly hopeless about the state of our world.

When I’m not worrying about the fires devastating communities, I worry about the air we are subjected to. It’s bad. Right now the AQI is 141. It has been over 250 and it is 101 degrees as I write this. I went to the gym today and had a mask on the whole time I walked on the treadmill. It was uncomfortable, hot, I got sweaty. No one else I saw there was masked, except for employees. I had to get some exercise so did what I had to. Bypassing all of the COVID distress, I have enough in other places.

Being proximal to water is not very comforting these days. Folsom Lake is low, lower than low. I haven’t gone on the trails near there since March. It was depressing to see clear evidence of how little rain we had this year. I am frugal with water. I do my darndest not to waste any. My shower was quick, catching cold water in the bucket, getting in while it was still cool, turning it off between washing. I will use the bucket water on trees and plants.

I wish I could be upbeat, but have heard it said this is the coolest summer we will have going forward. I used to say the heat here didn’t bother me, after living in the south. But it has; this year, the past few. I can’t open the windows at night or in the morning, there is smoke. The outside, which what I love, isn’t a respite anymore.

I feel deeply for the poor wildlife that are outside and don’t have the option to get out of the heat and smoke. Or have their homes destroyed.

So before ending this…I just finished an interesting book, The Little Stranger. I’ve had the book for awhile and am working on reading books I’ve had on the shelf. (Or shelves, in my case). I liked it, though not something I think normally I would. It’s described as a gothic novel and something about that hasn’t appealed in the past. Check it out!

Here are the girls – you can see the smoke out of our front window, which is usually open for them to watch the birds.

Taffy – Saturday out the window
Trinket – wanting the window open

Phew. It’s a learning process.

Photo by energepic.com on Pexels.com

There have been a few bumps as I re-learn WordPress. The format and set up is different from when I signed on a few years back. So, I had noticed when I returned a few weeks ago that a blog from 2018 kept appearing on the landing page rather than the most recent one. I tried everything I could think of to move it and change the formatting so that the most recent appeared. To no avail so I queried the online support. It was little bit less than responsive. It seemed like I would be asked a question about the problem I was having, then I’d wait for a response for 10 minutes, then have to refresh the window to see it. Frustrated, I gave up.

Finally, I read the latest recommendation from the support person more carefully. A ha. I clicked through the menus more carefully. I unclicked the box as was suggested. I think it’s fixed.

Just the way things are sometimes. It takes a few tries, it takes stepping away for a bit. It takes a bit more time.

A few things around here seem to be ending their life span. This laptop is pretty old, as these things go. I think I bought it in 2014, and have gone through a few batteries. I dread getting a new one. More to learn and navigate. Worrying about where and if everything is saved. But I had more memory installed last year and I still have issues in shutting it down and it seems to get hot pretty easily. So it may be sooner rather than later.

My phone is also on the watch list. It is a 2017, which doesn’t seem that long ago, but again, in the tech world, it’s outdated. I hope it gives me some warning before it dies. We’ve also been getting a warning from our refrigerator. It has been making a weird noise (very technical term) for several days. Now, I haven’t been ignoring it. I finally caught up with the repair person and I appreciated that he asked me a bunch of questions about the problem, then said it’s normal for that model of that age. And, if it stops cooling food, then call him. How often does that happen, where a person is willing to save you a $65 charge?

I also learned that it’s been awhile since I’ve walked a distance over 5 miles. I did it yesterday with my husband, and today with a friend, and boy am I tired. It’s a good tired though. I like the feeling of having a bit of fatigue brought about by a long walk. And I was glad to get outside when the air quality was okay.

So that’s a bit of what’s happening here. Thanks for reading.

Beach time.

Lots of shorebirds

I’m just back from a few days at one of my favorite places – Pajaro Dunes . We discovered this place a few years ago, need a break from the valley heat. We were really wanted some beach time, but not wanting to go to Southern California and logistically and financially, not able to go to Hawaii (another favorite place!). We’ve been three different times, twice staying at the same condo and this time, staying right next door! We hadn’t planned that, but the place that we had rented back in March was sold a month ago and we had to scramble to find something else. Yes, there was a day of panic as we searched desperately to find something else in the area that was available and not astronomically expensive. We didn’t even realize it was next door until we pulled up to the building.

I love this Pajaro Dunes because it is right on the ocean so you can walk right out to the beach. It is fairly secluded, in a gated community at the end of a rural road in the midst of strawberry fields. There is a slough that runs alongside the property that is protected, and there is a ton of wildlife, including lots of shore birds. During our trip, we saw a sea otter foraging in the waves while we were walking! A thrill for me, since I’m nuts for those creatures. Today, as we were leaving, we saw several small bunnies. There are pelicans, sea gulls, plovers, pipers and cormorants. Many more, but those are ones I could look up quickly!

Sea lions
Sea lions in the harbor

We don’t do a lot when we are there. A walk on the beach in the morning, reading and relaxing the rest of the day. We don’t even turn on the TV which for me is heaven. This time, we decided to go on an excursion operated by Elkhorn Slough Safari. I really wanted to see otters, and this seemed like the best way since we don’t kayak (yet!). It was a nice easy tour, with a naturalist on board and wasn’t rocky so that Ken (hubby) got seasick. We saw plenty of otters, as well as a harbor seal and lots of sea lions! Lots of birds too and what I loved was that each time they go out, the safari captain keeps a wildlife log. Their findings have helped assist wildlife researchers in the area. So I loved that they are a responsible local business and endorsed by local environmental groups.

We also went to Capitola one afternoon, but found it a bit wanting. Too busy, touristy, expensive. I think we walked around for 45 minutes then left! Back to the seclusion of the beach at Pajaro Dunes. We typically bring some food to eat as well as breakfast and snack items. Dinner can be picked up easily in town; there are several good Mexican restaurants as well as chains. There’s also a famous seafood place, Phil’s and we also takeout from there as well. I’ve had the same thing the past few times, the blackened prawns. Yum. They have a huge menu and specials every week.

We are back now to the heat. I swam this morning and went to the grocery store. After eating somewhat unhealthily, I stocked up on veggies and fruit. I’m glad those are things that I like and enjoy and crave them after a few days of healthier foods.

I just finished a book, Malibu Rising, that was an easy read. I wasn’t too sure about it and almost gave up 75 pages in. My limit is usually 100, so gave it another shot. It was entertaining and light reading but would probably give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Well, I’d better hit publish on this or it won’t get done. I’m still not in the habit of writing here but am connecting with a few more of the Spark Friends who are also blog writers so I’m glad we can still stay in touch. Thanks for reading.

Six months.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

This morning I had my six month check up with my surgical oncologist. I haven’t seen her since my surgery on 12/18. My follow up post surgery was with her PA.

Things are fine, mostly. I still have redness from radiation all over that left breast, which she said would likely remain. I still have pain, depending on the day. It’s due to increased density from the radiation. I can’t wear bras comfortably, but she suggested doing so would help, especially a compression-type bra, like a sports bra. I’ll try. I find when I do wear one, for regular walks, cycling, etc, I have more pain.

She also wants me to revisit taking a medication to prevent a re-occurrence. For post menopausal women, these are aromatase inhibitors. I tried one for a month and had negative side effects – trouble sleeping, depression, irritability. I will get in touch with my medical oncologist to talk about trying another.

My husband’s birthday was yesterday and it was low key. We set off on a bike ride but we really waited too long as it’s been really hot here. He had some physical issues at our turn around, so I went back and was planning on getting the car to fetch him. Luckily, he felt better and was able to make it home. The rest of they day was eating Thai takeout, cupcakes from Icing on the Cupcake (they have a daily vegan one), and watching a movie. We rented “News of the World” with Tom Hanks and it was good. I like most of his movies. I got KT a new bike jersey (bright yellow) and tickets to see Hamilton here in Sacramento. I wasn’t sure he’d be too keen on that, as there has been a recent rise in COVID cases in the area. It’s not until September so hopefully things will get better.

I just finished a good book – When Will there be Good News by Kate Atkinson. It’s part of a series, and this one was particularly interesting to me because one of the characters was a young girl who was pretty scrappy. Check out the series if you like a well written detective/mystery genre.

PS. I am linking things just so you can find out more information.

Well, I hope everyone who reads this is staying safe and well.